Car Rentals & Dead Bodies

La Paz Mexico

Old Man & The Sea Sculpture La Paz Mexico

Well that was an interesting couple of days.

It’s week three for us here in Cabo San Lucas Mexico so it was time to get out-of-town and explore more of Baja California Sur.  A two-hour drive along the Pacific Coast, then up the centre of the state, brings you to the capital city of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez. La Paz is a prosperous Mexican city of approximately 250,000 people situated in one of the most beautiful tranquil bays in Mexico.  But I’m ahead of myself.

First the car rental. We found out that the best deals are with a car rental company called Cactus Rentals at the airport.  However, in order to get to the airport we’d have to take a cab which would have cost us well over $250.00 CDN. No deal there. We have WiFi and we brought our computers so the next option was to look online.  Attempting to rent on the Internet was confusing to say the least. The standard choices—Hertz, Alamo and Budget (to name a few), are all here and the rates are ridiculously cheap. $5.00 a day for a standard, $11.00 a day for an SUV. Wow! Ya sure. What they don’t tell you is that insurance is extra, that insurance is not an option and that insurance is very very expensive. Either way you look at it is going to cost a few bucks. Oh well. In our case we took the bus to the centre of Cabo and dropped in at Dollar on the main street. Thankfully their rate included the insurance so we didn’t have to waste time in prefiguring costs during negotiations. We offered them less than they wanted, hey it’s Mexico, and whad’ you know, they accepted. It still cost us $180.00 for a SUV for two days, not including gas.

The day before our big excursion we had met another couple from Lockport Manitoba (of all places) on the beach who were going to La Paz to catch a flight to Mazatlan. We thought that La Paz is as good as any place to explore and offered them a ride.

cabo-to-lapaz-map

There are a few ways to get to La Paz from Cabo San Lucas.  The most scenic and shortest drive is along the Pacific coast past the town of Todo Santos. The highways were first-rate, the views of the ocean divine, and passing by the mountain ranges and agricultural fields made us feel like we were experiencing the real Mexico. No journey is ever complete without a pit stop (bathroom break). We found the Pemex Fuel stations, state-owned and the only gas stations in Mexico had relatively clean bathrooms—wasn’t expecting that.

Our new friends had rented a room in a five-star hotel called Hotel Catedral in the centre of La Paz for $90.00 a night (Canadian) so that’s were we headed first. Curiously, while we waited by our car as they checked in an elderly man approached our vehicle with two buckets of water and started washing it. The car was hardly dirty and no matter what gestures we made there was just no stopping him. All he wanted was a few dollars for his efforts but it turned out to be his lucky day, we only had an American twenty.

After giving the old man a twenty we felt more than safe leaving our newly washed car parked on the street and headed for the Malecón, a 5 kilometre waterfront promenade along the beach and harbour. What a wonderful walkway—an art walk.

La Paz Mexico

Sculptures along the Malecón

Every few blocks featured a large sea-themed sculpture—some graceful, some humorous—as well as numerous freshly painted benches for relaxing and viewing the shallow turquoise waters of the bay. It was mostly friendly locals on the Malecón as well as cyclists and the occasional rollerblader—no pushy vendors, a welcome relief from the streets of Cabo San Lucas.

NO PUSHY VENDORS

La Paz Mexico

The Caesar Zone

On one of the side streets we found a tiny “hole in the wall” establishment called the “Caesar Zone” who advertised Caesars, my favourite drink! After taking one look at the pictures on display, we just had to try one. It was the hallmark ice, vodka, clamato juice with a celery stick but that’s where the similarities ended.  The rim of the glass was first dipped in Chamoy sauce, a fermented sweet, salty and spicy Mexican condiment, then rolled in sweet and sour Chamoy power.  Our Caesar was full of refreshing cucumbers, a handful of crunchy coated nuts, saladitos (salted apricots), rolled tamarind, a cherry like thing with a huge pit, olives and a half a dozen cooked shrimp, topped with a sprinkle of the hugely popular salt chili spice called Tajin, then more Chamoy sauce drizzed on top. The drink came with a Bamburindo—a straw coated with a tamarind chili paste. Very strange, but tasty (sort of).

Our next stop was a little cafe at the end of the Malecón where we could quench our thirst and admire the beautiful yachts and pleasure boats, some over 100 feet long, mooring in the harbour. Even though we only ordered cervezas (beer) the waiter served us complementary home-made taco chips with three delicious dips, as well, gave each of us a tiny cup of hot brawny seafood broth. The broth was ambrosial—I hesitated to enquire what was in it for fear of ruining the taste experience. However, later that night that broth came back to haunt me, but that’s too much detail.

La Paz Mexico

On the Malecón in La Paz Mexico

We loved La Paz and wished we had planned to stay longer but we still wanted to do some shopping in Cabo San Lucas while we had a car. We said good-bye to our new Lockport friends and off we went…driving aimlessly around La Paz looking for a way out of the damn city. This is very important.  Do not drive around in your car in Mexico and expect to see any turn-off signs. Sure we had a tourist map, which turned out to be as clear as mud. After an hour of frustratingly driving in circles down sketchy dirt streets we caved and turned on expensive data roaming on the cell phone to access Google Maps. Lesson number two. It became abundantly clear that Google Maps was pretty much useless as a GPS when it indicated that we would reach Cabo San Lucas in less than 8 minutes. Arggg, night was quickly falling and it was taking every ounce of control for us to stay calm. By some miracle—we even contemplated picking up a hitchhiker in order to get us out of town—the Cabo sign suddenly appeared for our turn off.

Arggg, night was quickly falling and it was taking every ounce of control for us to stay calm

Our two-hour drive back to Cabo San Lucas turned into 3 after we managed to get lost two more times. Yes, two more times. Once we had to turn around on the pitch black highway in the middle of nowhere and again when we reached the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas.

By now you are probably wondering about the title “Dead Bodies”. Hang on. I’m getting to that.

By the time we reached familiar territory, on the freeway literally moments away from our condo, traffic suddenly came to stand still. A three car pile up, ambulances and a fire truck. Creeping past the accident site, like most,  we couldn’t help gawk at the carnage.  We wished we had shown more restraint after clearly seeing that limp dead body on the road. Sure it was wrapped mummy like in a black shroud but I still shudder at the thought of that lifeless form on display in the middle of the road. Apparently leaving the dead body on the road for an hour or two is standard practise here. It’s meant to serve as a visible reminder the consequences of speeding and not using seat belts—I guess.

Okay, so the next day, after that  horrific vision, we cautiously ventured out to get some shopping done. I’m embarrassed to report, we got lost again when we attempted to go to La Comer, a famous supermarket chain here in Mexico. Unbelievable! We didn’t learn our lesson from the previous day?

GET A GOOD MAP. PLAN YOUR ROUTE BEFORE YOU GET IN THE DAMN CAR!

This time our bad turn took us into a poverty-stricken neighbourhood of numerous shacks along dusty dirt streets—the real Mexico, which seemed so odd being in such close proximity of the opulent tourist resorts only a few miles away. We never felt we were in danger, we just felt awkwardly out-of-place. It was an unmistakable view of the substandard living conditions that the majority of these people who live here endure on a daily basis. With an average salary of $4.25 dollars a day—and that’s for those who belong to a union—many toil in labour intensive jobs, 6 days a week, 8:00am to 7:00pm. It’s clear that many citizens in Mexico are struggling to survive. After driving through these communities we made a vow that for the rest of our trip to be a little more tolerant of those pushy vendors. Incidentally, that is how I ended up with my $20.00 whistle worth about 2cents—but that’s another story.

Mexico

Typical homes off the Tourist Corridor

Anyhow, with frayed nerves we finally did make it to La Comer. What a contrast to the open door fly infested stores in the shanty community we had just left. The store, the 3rd largest supermarket franchise in Mexico reminded me of our Super Stores in Canada.  It was clean, large and stocked everything from fresh meats, fish and vegetables to toys, clothes, electronics and appliances. Strange though, while contemplating our choice to buy whole or 2% milk (no skim here) we were approached by a white women posing as an employee who tried to sell us a boat tour under the guise it was a La Comer deal for shoppers. Sigh. I know we said we’d be more tolerant of those pushy vendors but something just didn’t seem right here.

Now this part of the story gets silly.  We got lost going home. You guessed it. Dirt roads, shacks and dead ends—it’s so embarrassing. And at the risk of repeating myself, another accident on the freeway moments away from our condo. This time it was a cab.  This time they left the poor guy slumped over his steering wheel still in the driver seat, blood everywhere for all to witness. Nothing silly about that.

Big Breath. I think I’m just going to hang out around the pool for a few days.

Comments

  1. Just wanted to add that my friend was able to get a car for $35 a day with insurance at Eurocar in Cabo. We rented an SUV at a much higher cost.

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